Forty Years of Flight
Feb 1, 2024
Bob Sarazin is an icon—not just at Pentastar but in the world of private aviation. Bob’s career spans more than four decades, almost all of that time at Pentastar apart from his first five years in the business. In this time, he has managed multiple FBO locations, as well as ground handling for numerous dignitaries, including Air Force One for three presidents. He also has overseen large aircraft handling for entertainers, professional sports teams, and intercontinental shuttle flights.
As the Vice President, FBO Services at Pentastar, Bob has a number of responsibilities under his purview. Despite his packed schedule and focus on maintaining Pentastar’s award-winning FBO, he had time to share his remarkable journey in private aviation and work at Pentastar.
You just celebrated your 40th anniversary. Congratulations! Tell us about the career path you’ve forged and how the business has changed along the way.
Yes, I recently celebrated 40 years with Pentastar and its forebears. I’ve been around a while, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. In terms of the industry itself, the most obvious change is how much aircraft have evolved over the years. When I look back and see how far we’ve come, the evolution of technology has been truly incredible. The advancements in safety and performance stand out the most, to me. The things that today’s aircraft are capable of and the track record of safety in the industry are extraordinary.
Tell us about your current role at Pentastar and what you do on a daily basis.
I oversee all Fixed Base Operations, Pentastar Aviation Facilities, as well as our onsite catering operations with Fivestar Gourmet. There’s a lot that goes into all of that, of course, but effective management and oversight is really about setting and living up to expectations. There are a lot of tech tools we use that help with that and facilitate communication across the organization, but it really all comes back to people in the end.
The nature of an FBO is that you have a lot of moving parts and different experts working together to deliver a coordinated constellation of services. Dispatchers, sales professionals, maintenance experts, flight planners, pilots, etc. Everyone matters and everyone helps.
Can you elaborate on the people side of things?
I’m a people person—which is a good thing in this line of work! I don’t believe you can manage a business without being a part of it. That means visibility, engagement, getting involved with training, being present at meetings, and talking to everyone who is a part of your team. My job involves working closely not just with customer service representatives, but line techs, catering, and facilities personnel. I preach consistency and I try to lead by example. I feel strongly about that. I might be in charge, but I don’t believe in asking anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. All hands on deck means all hands on deck. Everyone has to pitch in if we want to achieve our goals and provide the kind of service our customers have come to expect.
What role do CSRs and other staff play in the overall atmosphere of the FBO?
I’ve been in the business a long time and seen a lot of changes, but one thing that doesn’t change is the value of great customer service. Those principles are universal and timeless. Fundamentally, we are here to serve—and you have to be fully committed to that. A large part of my job is making sure that happens. Attention to detail is everything. And that means making sure everyone buys in—none of this works without an entire cohesive team.
Management and oversight are important, but we also want to make sure we empower our people and give them the perspective and skills and opportunity to thrive independently. In a business where consistency and commitment are so critical and where you need to be on your game 24/7/365, the strength of your team is going to make or break you.
Is that service-driven mindset unique to Pentastar?
I wouldn’t say that, no. But I will say it’s not as common as you might think. We get a lot of opportunities to travel and visit other FBOs and other private aviation providers’ facilities, and the contrast between how folks are greeted when they walk in the door can be pretty stark. Personal service is at the cornerstone of what we do. That means genuine warmth, personal connection, and building relationships. When Mr. Ford bought this company, he pushed those ideals hard and helped inspire us to take it to the next level.
Pentastar’s FBO is award-winning. Is that high level of customer service the main reason for that?
I think a great FBO recognizes that it’s not just about the services, but the service. A big part of our success is the experience. We’ve studied iconic brands that provide that kind of experience—places like the Ritz Carlton and Disney. Here at Pentastar we’ve tried to not just practice those ideals, but truly absorb them and live them every day. Anticipating customers’ needs, for example. By using flight monitoring tools that let us know to the minute when someone arrives, we can make sure to have their car ready and waiting as soon as they deplane.
That’s the attention to detail you mentioned earlier.
Absolutely, and I’ll give you an example of why that matters. We’ve designed our offices so it’s easy for our CSRs to come out from behind the counter to greet someone, help a client with bags, or whatever else might be needed. Every member of our team is always ready, willing, and able to get involved in making a client’s experience more seamless. That takes commitment, both in terms of culture and cost. You have to create and sustain that culture and you have to devote the resources required for staffing that maintains that high level of service at all times. The nature of the business is that it’s unpredictable—with flights coming in and out all times of the day and night—which can make establishing a routine a challenge. But someone arriving at 9:00 p.m. deserves the same experience as someone arriving at 9:00 a.m., and that’s what we strive to provide. All it takes is one bad experience to create a lasting negative impression and ruin years of great work.
What makes the Pentastar FBO stand out?
Pentastar is an IS-BAH registered FBO—that’s the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handlers. We are one of only about 300 or so in the world with that designation. And this is one of the most competitive markets in the country, so the fact that we have been able to create traction and build a customer base of loyal partners who know they can count on us is a testament to our sustained success. A hard-earned reputation is the best currency. And it doesn’t hurt that our owner is a transportation legend. He has a unique perspective and opportunities to engage with people, places, and companies in a way that few others can.
But ultimately, talking to people isn’t what makes us special—it’s listening. The FBO surveys our clients submit aren’t just a pro forma exercise. We take them incredibly seriously and they have a direct impact on our decision-making. That feedback gets talked about in the boardroom and it resonates at the highest levels of this organization. I don’t think there’s a better example of what makes us different than that.